STRATEGIC ANALYSIS

Jonathan Matusitz, Symbolism in Terrorism: Motivation, Communication, and Behavior, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Maryland, 2014

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  • May 2015
    Volume: 
    39
    Issue: 
    3
    Book Review

    Symbolism in Terrorism: Motivation, Communication, and Behavior explores an important but under-represented aspect of terrorism: the meanings of both physical and non-physical symbols in terrorism, and how culture, belief systems and internal and external forces come to create such symbolic meanings and processes. Jonathan Matusitz, the author of the book, manages to ‘unpack’ this clearly through 16 chapters that each take a different angle in explaining the origins and reasons of various forms of terrorism (both past and current).

    Overall, the book is an easy read. It is rich in empirical data, and laid out logically. Particularly impressive are all the theories of symbolism and communication applied to case studies of international terrorism. For example, Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT), which rests on the premise that symbolic convergence is produced by sharing group fantasies, is applied to both Hezbollah of Lebanon and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) of Brighton. Likewise, the theory of Symbolic Trinity, which defines symbolism, rhetoric and myth as important components of cultural systems, is applied to both Nazism and Maharashtrian terrorism (in India). Matusitz also aptly looks at Violent New Religious Movements (VNRMs) and Japanese terrorist cults like Aum Shinrikyo.

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